Quick Facts: Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE)

Mission Introduction

LADEE Spacecraft

NASA’s LADEE mission orbited the moon in order to characterize the atmosphere and lunar dust environment. (Courtesy NASA/Ames)

LADEE was designed to characterize the tenuous lunar atmosphere and dust environment from orbit.

The scientific objectives of the mission were to:

  1. Determine the global density, composition, and time variability of the fragile lunar atmosphere before it is perturbed by further human activity.
  2. Determine the size, charge, and spatial distribution of electrostatically transported dust grains and assess their likely effects on lunar exploration and lunar-based astronomy.


Further objectives included determining if the Apollo astronaut sightings of diffuse emission at 10s of km above the surface were Na glow or dust and documenting the dust impactor environment (size-frequency) to help guide design engineering for the outpost and future robotic missions.

LASP Roles

LASP provided:

  • The Lunar Dust Experiment (LDEX)
  • LDEX principal investigator, Mihály Horányi

LASP Instruments

Data from the LDEX instrument is expected to provide new information on the physical characteristics of lunar dust, from its interactions with the moon’s atmosphere and the solar wind to astronaut safety issues.

The LASP-built Lunar Dust EXperiment (LDEX)

LDEX was an impact ionization dust detector capable of detecting individual particles r > 0.3 micron with a design optimized to work in the UV environment. (Courtesy LASP)

Quick Facts

Launch date: September 6, 2013
Launch location: Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va.
Launch vehicle: Minotaur V
Mission target: Earth’s Moon
Mission duration: Approximately 225 days (LADEE impacted the lunar surface, as planned, on April 17, 2014)
Other organizations involved:

  • NASA Ames Research Center
  • NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • NASA Marshall Space Flight Center